PhD Options - Advice Needed

posted
24-Jul-16, 13:33
edited about 1 second later
Avatar for icarus93
posted about 3 years ago
Hello all, I'm in no doubt that I'm in a situation faced by many people, but I'm in need of some advice with regard to my options of PhD study. I'll start off with a little background. I did my BSc in environmental science at Hull and then progressed after a years work experience to an MSc in environmental science and management at York, from which I'm due to graduate in January. I suppose I'm a typical 'B' student, in that I achieve around the mid-60s with the occasional grade a little higher and lower.

I started looking into doing a PhD last year and have subsequently applied to funded positions. My first application was to Durham, the exact project I wanted to do at one of the places I most wanted to study. Unfortunately I was rejected on a technicality because I didn't realise, and nor did the proposal specify that the project started in January (about halfway through my master's). I then applied to Manchester, Exeter, Edinburgh and Strathclyde. I received interviews for all, but only an offer from Strathclyde. Rejected from Manchester due to me screwing up the interview (my first one for a PhD), and from Exeter and Edinburgh because I didn't have a strong social science/quantitative science background respectively.

I visited the campus in June, and whilst the supervisors seemed nice, the campus is horrible and the overall ranking is a concern. I'd be based in the department of civil and environmental engineering. However, the project is of interest (fracking) and is one of only a handful of institutions in the UK to be doing active research into this area. The project is also fully funded, and I'm concerned that if I reject this place, then I may not even be offered a place at an institution I'd find more desirable, or be not offered a project with the same funding (see Brexit)

My sister and dad are of the opinion that I should accept, no question. My mum thinks I should do what I feel is best, either reject and take a year out and apply in subsequent years, or accept and see how it works out.

I'm sure you'll understand my predicament, and I'd be interested to know what you'd do faced with a similar situation. Thanks for any replies!
posted
25-Jul-16, 09:45
edited about 8 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 3 years ago
It's a tough one. It depends really on how well you would cope for four years if you don't like the place. Some people handle this well and others don't. Since you got a lot of interviews this year, there's a good chance you will get more next year, plus other opportunities may come along earlier as well. Although like you said, Brexit may be an issue.

It's a personal choice really, no-one can answer for you. I guess personally I'm risk adverse so I'd probably take it.
posted
25-Jul-16, 10:23
edited a moment later
Avatar for chickpea
posted about 3 years ago
While I'm not that familiar with the Strathclyde campus, it is central to Glasgow and you'd have access to all the resources you'd expect in a major city. I wouldn't see that as much of a drawback.
posted
25-Jul-16, 13:53
Avatar for tuutikki
posted about 3 years ago
In terms of reputation, I was under the impression that Strathclyde is very highly regarded for engineering? It's not my field but I have a friend who did his engineering degree at Glasgow uni but specifically wanted to do a PhD at Strathclyde rather than Glasgow uni just because it has such a good reputation for that subject. I understand that it generally doesn't rank very highly in the type of general 'best universities in the UK' lists but I don't think you should let that deter you if they're known to be good for subject you're doing. That's the only piece of advice I can give really.

And oh, Glasgow is such a great city, don't let the campus deter you! I'm at Glasgow uni which I guess is seen as pretty but really, that's just the old buildings. My office building is absolutely awful and an eye sore haha. But there's so much fun and loveliness here it doesn't matter.
posted
25-Jul-16, 14:04
by mako
Avatar for mako
posted about 3 years ago
I think you should reflect on 2 things: 1) if you can live for 4 years in a place you don't like 2) about the ranking, you should check not the university itself but maybe the group that offers the position (publications, conferences and so on).
I can completely understand your feeling of "What if no one offers me anything as good as that", I think it's normal!
posted
25-Jul-16, 22:24
edited about 8 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 3 years ago
I'd go with the project if you think you will like it, especially if, as someone has said, the uni is highly regarded for your field (much more important than overall ranking I've heard). The campus might even grow on you!
posted
26-Jul-16, 11:06
edited about 16 seconds later
Avatar for icarus93
posted about 3 years ago
First off, thanks to everyone who has taken the time to reply.

TreeofLife: I'd consider myself quite risk averse also, but I'm finding it difficult to decide one way or the other. I don't think Brexit will be an issue for another couple of years, but my master's supervisor said that 80% of his funding comes from the EU, so it's something that may be a problem if I delay for a while. With regards to interviews, I applied when I'd only just started my master's so there were no grades on my most recent transcript. I'm not sure if that means they interviewed me on the off chance that I'd be a high-achiever, and whether I'd be interviewed again given my a more complete transcript.

Chickpea: I've only been to Glasgow once, when I visited the university on an overnighter, and was pleasantly surprised given some of the things I've heard. I like to think of it as a cross between Edinburgh and Manchester. The Strathclyde campus is really well located, but it really is an urban campus. It didn't help that when I visited, it was an overcast and drizzly day, so my opinions may improve.

Tuutikki: I can't remember exactly what the website says but it's something along the lines of 8 of their engineering departments are ranked within the Top 10, so it obviously does well in that regard. It's interesting to hear about your friend. I guess I'm concerned that because it's not a top university, then the opportunities won't be quite the same as elsewhere. I don't know, it's difficult talking about rankings without sounding like a snob, and I hope I'm not giving off that impression! I really liked Glasgow when I visited, granted it was only for a short period, but there seemed to be a big city buzz in a relatively small town

Mako: Thanks for the food for thought. Like I've said above, Glasgow struck me as a good place and given I'd be spending more time in the city than at the university, then I think that's more important. I think maybe the campus I could get used to. As far as publications go, that's another area that was a worry, though I've been told that participation in working groups and conferences is more important. My main supervisor has had roughly 50 publication over a 30 year career, and a handful he's been lead author for.

Tudor_Queen: I think it would be a good opportunity to get involved in some new/potentially pioneering research given that they've invested in a new fracking centre.

Thanks again, it's been a constructive sounding board, but please continue to add to!
posted
26-Jul-16, 11:14
Avatar for tuutikki
posted about 3 years ago
icarus93 - Oh you definitely don't sound like a snob, rankings are important! But I would seriously consider the rankings of the department and its reputation/the reputation of the people you'd be working with over general rankings. I know I keep going on about Glasgow but honestly, it's such a lovely place. I don't know if you've been to the west end but it's beautiful, with nice parks and coffee shops etc. You wouldn't have to live near the campus, the west end for example is only a couple of stops away on the subway. The south side also has some great areas and it's cheaper. And the people of Glasgow are so nice, I'm sure you'd feel right at home. :)
posted
26-Jul-16, 11:27
Avatar for icarus93
posted about 3 years ago
I couldn't agree more! I took a tour bus that went out to the West End and it did look really nice, plus one of the PhD students said she lived out that way. My original plan was to stay in on-campus accommodation for the first year, and find somewhere else the subsequent years, but the accommodation department didn't allow me to look around when I went up, so I'm in need of ideas for where to live once I've made my decision.

Quick question and a little off topic, what are the winters like? My mind is conflicted, it should be cold given that it's more northerly, but being west coast it should also be a little warmer???
posted
26-Jul-16, 11:32
edited about 6 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 3 years ago
I can confirm that the East coast of Scotland is freezing in Winter (well actually, it's almost freezing in the summer too...). Beware if you're from warmer UK climes...
posted
26-Jul-16, 11:43
edited about 6 seconds later
Avatar for icarus93
posted about 3 years ago
I'm from York, so things aren't always rosy down here either, but forewarned is forearmed!
posted
26-Jul-16, 11:45
edited about 15 seconds later
Avatar for tuutikki
posted about 3 years ago
This might give you an idea: http://www.holiday-weather.com/glasgow/averages/ It's all relative I guess, I'm from a colder country but people who aren't do say it's cold haha. I've been to some of the on-campus accommodation for parties etc. I mean it's certainly not glamourous, just standard halls of residence stuff. But it is a good place to meet people of course! I'm happy to provide more advice on nice areas etc. if you do decide to make the move, just PM me. :) Good luck with the decision making!
posted
26-Jul-16, 11:57
Avatar for icarus93
posted about 3 years ago
Thanks! I don't think any on-campus accommodation is glamorous, is it?
posted
26-Jul-16, 13:18
edited about 18 seconds later
Avatar for chickpea
posted about 3 years ago
Winters in Glasgow: generally milder than you'd think up until December, colder in January/February. People do tend to think we get a lot of rain here - I don't notice that so much as I've lived here most of my life. You won't get many problems in the city with snow etc - it's a fairly rare occurrence and the city centre gets cleared quickly.
posted
26-Jul-16, 15:08
Avatar for tuutikki
posted about 3 years ago
Quote From icarus93:
Thanks! I don't think any on-campus accommodation is glamorous, is it?

Haha I suppose not. I was more emphasising that as you weren't too keen on the look of the campus. The Strathclyde halls I've visited are pretty much a continuation of the look of that...

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